Washington DCMay 12, 2015 in the United States ⋅
We woke to a solid breakfast courtesy of our hostel, which has a ritual that guests greet staff with a 'good morning' in a language other than English. Alex eager to finally put his D in GCSE German to good use, fired off 'Guten Tag', only to realise that it is in fact 'Guten Morgan'. Fail.
The next day was better, eager to redeem himself, Alex got in early with 'Buenos Dias'. He was so convincing the staff member tried to communicate further with us in Spanish thinking Alex was in fact Spanish. Ole!
It was another hot and humid day out on the streets of Washington. We knew we'd arrived at the White House even before seeing the building because of the watchful security and tourist crowds. Snipers on the roof, K-9 dog teams, guns, body armour and of course - sunglasses surrounding the white shining walls of the the President's residence.
We strolled around the great lawn of the Eclipse as sunglass-toting men with 'secret service' stitched on their body armour rode past on bicycles. Before us towered the obelisk of the Washington Monument with clouds brewing around its pinnacle. You can go to the top of the monument but the tickets for the day had gone by the time we arrived. Many historical attractions and museums in Washington are free to the public which is great but unfortunately we are not staying in Washington long enough to fully appreciate this.
We walked down the Mall as a slight breeze lapped the water of the reflecting pool with the Lincoln Memorial growing in size as we approached. Inside the raised stone temple sits a marble statue of the man enshrined by engravings of his Gettesburg Address and his Second Inaugural Speech.
These engraved speeches give reference to 'one nation under God', a need for 'freedom' and that 'it may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces'.
However the sense of optimism raised from this fanfare of success is muted when you realise that nearly 100 years later, in 1963, Martin Luther King stood on the very steps of the memorial to deliver his 'I Have A Dream' speech due to the significant short comings in this ideology.
We walked the short distance to the memorial that now stands to Martin Luther King. His likeness carved out of milky stone, arms crossed, looking out across the waters of the tidal basin. Quotes of Dr King's own speeches are carved in a dark stone wall behind his figure, one reading -
'The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy' (25th February 1967, Los Angeles)
We later joined a free tour of the city's African American history from our hostel. It took us to the home of Duke Ellington and other buildings of significance in the area around U street, which until the boom of Harlem in the 1920s was the largest African American community in the U.S. We finished the tour at the landmark Ben's Chilli Bowl where previous patrons include Bill Cosby and Barrack Obama. Sitting in the diner, with its walls displaying memorabilia and a jukebox playing Smokey Robinson and Michael Jackson, we tucked into the signature dish of chilli half-smoke (hot dog in a bun with mustard and chilli served over the top and a side of crinkle crisps).Read more